A couple of weeks ago the rain started early one Sunday morning and did not let up until almost noon. It was a rain like we had not had in a long time (I am sorry for my drought-stricken friends, this may be a little hard to read). It was a great rain, it came down steadily and the dry ground really soaked it up. I believe (and it is only a guess since yours truly did not remember to take in his rain gauge last fall), that we received about three inches of rain.
Even though the rain came fairly slowly it still saturated the soil and because of that water started to run off. Soon there was a nice little stream running down the hillside by my house and down the road. The inner child in me wanted to put my boots on, grab a toy boat and float it down the very temporary stream. Then I realized that would be a very bad idea.
Why would that be a bad idea? It would only prove that my little temporary stream was navigable on some level. The next logical question would be who cares? Well, apparently the EPA and the Corp of Engineers in all of their glorious wisdom and endless red tape care. Under a new proposed rule, the EPA and the Corp of Engineers would like to declare my little raging river of 15 minutes part of the “Waters of the U.S.”
Why is this a problem? This proposed new rule would declare almost every puddle, temporary stream, ditch, diversion or any other water hole part of the “Waters of the U.S.” and there is the problem. As part of the “Waters of the U.S.” almost every piece of land we farm or ranch would come under the regulation of the EPA and Corp of Engineers. Normal farming activities such as fence building, spraying and tillage could need a permit before they could be completed.
I don’t know about you, but I can only imagine the red tape and the waiting period that would come with any EPA or Corp of Engineers permit (not to mention cost). We all know what kind of time we have to wait around during the spring, the weather is usually nice and we have plenty of time to get things done. No, we are usually on a tight time frame in between weather systems and we cannot be delayed. Don’t overlook the fact that if we have to apply for a permit, it gives these two governmental agencies the ability to control how we farm and ranch.
In fairness, the EPA says that it will not bother us and that this rule is only meant to cover just a very few acres. Maybe they are telling the truth, but is this a chance you want to take? We live in a time when the increasing weight of federal government oversight makes it harder and harder to do our jobs and grow the food that even bureaucrats need. Another side of this issue that makes me just as nervous is the fact that the proposed new rule did not come down from Congress. This is something the EPA and the Corp of Engineers created to take more control away from local and state agencies. Our elected officials are almost powerless to change this rule. I don’t think this is how it is supposed to work.
We do have a chance to voice our opinions on this proposed new rule but the time is getting short.
We have until July 21 to go to the EPA and comment. Please, before you do this, do some research and make sure you have all the facts, don’t take my word, read the information and make up your own mind. Information is easy to find, and I am sure you have already heard and read quite a bit about this. Folks, if there was ever a time to take action, it is now.
Go to ditchtherule.fb.org and make your voice heard!
I fear the noose of regulation will keep getting tighter and tighter and all of this in a time when we need to be more productive than we have ever been in agriculture. We know how to best care for the land and water we depend on and we need to be able to make those decisions on our own farms and in a timely manner. Let’s all let the EPA and Corps know that their boat just won’t float and to ditch the rule.
Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation farmer. He previously served on the national AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee and is a graduate of the Partners in Agricultural Leadership (PAL) program.